Scorcaesar’s review published on Letterboxd:
You just have to admire the fact that Taika has really made use of all that Marvel clout and built a project that you can tell he really wanted to make. When you get the limelight he’s received recently, it’s hard to blame someone for shilling out completely in that situation. Instead, he dresses up as Hitler and makes an anti-hate film that would be extremely difficult to finance without it. It’s hard to imagine any modern studio having a “Nazi coming-of-age story” on their to-do lists.
While there are loads of positives to take away from Taika and his unwavering ambition, Jojo Rabbit quite shockingly plays it too safe. Yes, an imaginary Hitler performed by the director himself manages to safe it up entirely. The whacky concept and formidable surprise in the opening scene stalls to a “Mexican stalemate” (see; regular stalemate) rather quickly. It’s interesting enough to ponder the struggles of a brainwashed generation and their peers, especially when the tides of war were rapidly changing for the worse. But even that gets its light snuffed out.
Nevertheless, Jojo – a young German boy – is confident in his belief and struts around blissfully conforming to Nazi propaganda and conversing with his imaginary Hitler friend – portrayed like a bumbling moron. His mother secretly serves the resistance, and her mission is sneakily hinted at throughout the film. She also hides a Jewish girl in their attic and a person that quickly confuses Jojo's entire worldview. Their relationship changes him, and I must commend both child performers for their work. The homely section of the film provides the warmth the film needs to balance out the risky subject.
So where does Jojo start to crack?
When the ballsy premise wears off, and the tinted risk-taking become too casual, the viewer starts to ask themselves what else there is to Jojo. The jokes are all there – picture-perfect humor – but the long-con joke on Nazi politics, the massive hypocrisy and a ten-year-old brainwashed boy comes to the realization that Jews are in fact not bad or evil – is that all Taika had to offer? No, he tries to play on several emotional beats, but making the audience sympathize with Nazis is not an easy task. It can be done, but Taika doesn’t seem to be the man for the job – in this film at least. It starts off daring, bold and you’re wondering “wow, is this really legal?”, but its execution of several beats misses the mark by quite a bit.
Taika is undoubtedly exciting and a breath of fresh air to many individual pieces of filmmaking. His approach to comedy, how he paces scenes and his extraordinary ability to work with child actors is impressive, to say the least. But he lacks the right swing when it comes to laying a puzzle. He knows what he wants to do, and has acquired the tools to make it happen, but in the end, Jojo seems to be directed by a man always attempting to wink with one eye.